As a Family Member… What do I Need to Know ?
- In the event the perpetrator is a family member, the image you have of your family will be shaken.
- If the perpetrator is your husband, son, brother, father, or someone within your immediate family circle, you will be faced with agonizing choices. You may have to make critical decisions about separation, divorce, family loyalty.
- If you were assaulted by a member of this family, but have not dealt with your feelings, you may feel threatened or angry each time the victim speaks out, forcing you to face your own abuse. Do not criticize her for wanting to deal with this. Do not abandon her. You are also a survivor.
- If the victim was assaulted by a relative, or if there were other abusive elements in your home (alcoholism, battering, neglect), you were affected by the same family dynamics. You, too, grew up in a family where there was betrayal, secrecy, pain and fear. One way or another, you suffered too.
- Whether you were assaulted or not, you both grew up in the same family, and by talking together you can lend each other invaluable help. You may have a memory she needs. She may be able to fill in a piece of her puzzle. The functioning of many families is so distorted, so painful, so confusing, that survivors often find it hard to trust their memories. You can confirm for each other that things were as bad as they seemed. And that neither of you is crazy. For a victim, having a member of the family validate her reality is invaluable. You are in a position to give a great gift, and the gain for you can be the healing of your own childhood wounds.
- Whether the perpetrator was a family member or not, the revelation of a sexual assault will have an impact onthe entire family unit.
- If you were not sexually assaulted yourself, you may feel guilty. You may criticize yourself for not having protected the victim. It is common for those who were not assaulted or those who have escaped the assault to blame themselves.
- If the sexual assault victim feels you did not protect her, she may be angry at you. If you are a mother, be aware that our society is more comfortable with anger directed at women than at men. Remind yourself that the perpetrator is the only one to blame for his acts.
- You learn that a member of your family was sexually assaulted, this is a great opportunity to be supportive.
- Do not allow yourself to be overwhelmed by guilt or regret for what you did not do before.
- Do not lose sight of the chance to be an understanding and kind person to the victim that was assaulted as a child, although she is now an adult.
- It may be helpful to get counselling to sort out your own feelings. Even if you are not the partner of a sexual assault victim, nothing stops you from being curious… You will find valuable information in the next section pertaining to partners.
Your compassion, courage, and willingness to help and be supportive are extremely valuable !
Even if you are not the partner of a sexual assault victim, nothing stops you from being curious… You will find valuable information in the next section pertaining to partners.